For all that is in the world —the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life —is not of the Father but is of the world. (1 John 2:16)
The following is written by Dr. Tim Clinton explaining how sometimes, when we’re caught up in a sinful relationship, almost without thinking, we bring God into it. Instead of heeding what we know God would not want us to do, we at first push “God’s admonitions aside and continue down the path” we’ve chosen for ourselves, doing “things we know God would not sanction.” Yet we become increasingly confident that God understands and actually approves our course. It’s a frightening paradox, and it ends with someone reaching spiritual rock bottom and stating, and meaning, some pretty remarkable things, like: “I believe God just doesn’t want me to stay in this marriage anymore.”
Dr. Clinton writes:
God tells us we’re to love our spouses; Paul said men are to love their wives and give of themselves as Jesus gave Himself for the church. Wives are to love their husbands, submitting to them as we submit before the Lord. Satan, the world, and our flesh war with us and try to get us to do the opposite and all too often we comply.
Let’s look at what takes people to this point [of step-by-step of justifying our wrong behavior]:
The first step in the downward spiritual spiral is the rationalization of sin. Usually it’s something small and seemingly insignificant. Yet, because it’s the first step, it’s significant. What makes it more so is that we rationalize hurting the person we’ve pledged to love.”
The steps in a Downward Spiritual Cycle:
1. You sin in some way against your spouse. The more often you go through the cycle, the more destructive the transgressions get.
2. You feel guilt and/or shame, but instead of repenting right away and seeking forgiveness, which is God’s way out of the predicament, you rationalize.
3. You see some value in what you’ve done. There’s a benefit there for you.
4. You convince yourself it’s something God would sanction. Or if He wouldn’t directly approve, as a loving God, He surely wouldn’t want you to suffer by not getting the benefit.
5. You fear that your true feelings might become exposed, so you keep what you’ve done secret.
6. You yield to temptation again. This takes you back to step 1. But this time, it’s much easier to yield to temptation because your heart is that much more hardened and you’ve reaped a benefit that you would like to get again.
And so the cycle continues. The cycle finally ends with your warping and fashioning God’s Word to your own ends. Subtly at first, blatantly later.
Although there are only a few steps to the cycle, it’s repeated with increasing frequency as time goes on and your relationships with your spouse and the Lord deteriorate.
The author, Dr. Tim Clinton then goes on to tell of a married couple where the husband Carl, is having a sexual affair. Below are a few statements Dr. Clinton gives, pertaining to Carl, which is a pattern of traps that often emerge in the downward spiral of sinful behavior.
• He (John) was beginning to feel above the Word, as if it applied to everyone else, but not to him —God loved him just too much to worry about a few minor infractions. So he started living his life with a princely arrogance instead of a godly humility. In biblical terms, John’s heart was getting hard. For it to soften again, he would have to repent and begin to selflessly love his wife again. And he wasn’t ready to do that.
• John remained calm and self-righteous. And that’s the tragedy of the downward spiritual spiral —during the journey, the Word of God becomes so warped by a self-interest-based interpretation, that even the most flagrant sins become something God would sanction.
• When John first came into counseling, he told me, “God can’t want me to stay in this marriage. It’s against everything He’s given me. It hinders the career He’s given me, the friends He’s given me, the talents He’s given me. It’s against everything He’s given me for fun. Everything. How could He possibly want me to be married to that woman? How? It just doesn’t make sense.”
And, of course, the person caught up in this type of rationalizing behavior has come to believe this. To not do so, means there must be a change. It will be necessary to repent, to humbly seek forgiveness, to begin living selflessly, and to entrust oneself to the Lord once again, in Truth.
You may recognize this pattern of rationalizing sinful behavior in your spouse. If so, you need to know that your spouse is buying the lies of the enemy of our faith. As long as he or she keeps grabbing onto these lies, there is more going on than meets the eye. A spiritual warfare is being waged and at this time, all may seem lost. And it may be, if your spouse doesn’t open his or her spiritual eyes.
But please don’t rule out the possibility that a miracle can happen, even though it may seem impossible. Realize that God is on your side and will help you to stand strong if you participate with Him, and will work to reveal truth over and above any lies that one may embrace.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:12-18)
Please don’t blame God for your spouse’s bad behavior. He or she is participating in that which grieves the very heart of God. Even so, God still gives each of us a free will —your spouse, as well as you. Stand firm, pray, and see how God will unravel this thing to help you, as you yield to His ways.
I need to say one more thing though, in case you are the one who is caught up in rationalizing that which is contrary to God’s ways. Please look seriously at your behavior. Are you doing things, which you know run contrary to the Word of God but you are justifying them? Do you feel in some way outside God’s law? It’s easy to do. It’s easy to believe that whatever we do, we’ll remain in God’s graces. Are you counting on that right now? Remember, James 1:15 says quite pointedly, when you yield to sin, it leads to death. Separation. Brokenness.
If you are the one who has been caught up in the downward spiral of rationalizing sinful behavior, stop right now. Acknowledge your sin, come clean about it; ask God for mercy, accept His forgiveness, then discipline yourself to godliness. Don’t forget 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If your sin has hurt anyone, you need to repair that, as well. Praying for a clean heart, like the one God speaks of in Psalm 51:10, is our road to freedom.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me“
In whatever place you stand:
“This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ —to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)
The above quotes came from the excellent book, Before A Bad Goodbye: How to Turn Your Marriage Around -written by Dr. Tim Clinton, published by Word Publishing. As Dr’s. Les and Leslie Parrott say and we totally agree, “If you’re trying to reclaim a love that has nearly slipped through your fingers, you can’t afford to miss this outstanding book.” This book is filled with spiritual encouragements, cognitive tools, and practical behavioral suggestions and is a “must-read” for every married couple. We can’t recommend this book highly enough!
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